1.25.2016

Back from Denver with lots of ideas and even more "writer's block."

The Berlin Wall and Beyond.

I have to confess that I haven't taken many trips in the last few years just for the hell of it. I've gone on many corporate event projects that are anything but relaxing. On those trips I'm along to document...everything. From the great revelations of the engaging CEO's to the wry smiles of the audiences, and a lot of stuff in between. And I approach each of those engagements with my usual anxiety and trepidation. I try to make each working event pretty much bullet proof. By that I mean that I take along duplicate/redundant gear, I leave a lot slop in my travel schedule and I bring a first aid kit filled with various quick cures; from antihistamines to antacids to aspirin. 

In fact, I think it's largely because of my almost unrelenting anxiety that I had never tried Uber or gotten to an airport less than two hours before my flights. I'm certain the same need to perform without hiccups is the magic ingredient that makes most business oriented travel very stressful for me. I don't mean to say that I'm a quivering mess for the entire time I'm gone, in fact, I feel pretty darn relaxed and happy when I'm in the air on the final leg of a flight home. It's just the rest of the time that I could be a walking advertisement for Xanax. 

So imagine if, after hundreds of corporate shows, conventions and forums, at which I was working and creating externally focused content for client, I actually got invited to go to a show as an attendee? How would that play out? 

I found out this past weekend. I am an instructor for the premier online learning channel for arts, crafts and photography. I've created three classes with Craftsy's talented teams of producers and videographer, and I've had fun doing it. Even more fun is feeling like a celebrity when I meet a student out "in the wild" and they tell me how much they love the course. To an artist with a fragile ego (are there any other kinds???) it's like pure gold. I got a taste of that a week ago when I was working on location at an international company's north American headquarters and one of their people came walking across the room towards me, excited to tell me that he'd taken one of my Craftsy photography course over the holidays and had, "Loved it!!!"

So a month of so ago the folks at Craftsy decided to bring together their instructors in one place to have a retreat/forum/learning experience wrapped around our involvement with teaching our Craftsy courses online. We got to meet our counterparts across all the categories of courses that Craftsy offers. They generously offered to pay for our food, our bar tabs and our rooms for the weekend and they brought in lots of great speakers to help make us smarter about social media and marketing. 

This is the first time in ages that I've been invited just to be an attendee. No obligation to speak or do a demo. No required attendance and no schedule parsed out in five minute intervals. As a bonus (at least for sports fans) we were put up at the Inverness Conference Resort just south of Denver and shared the hotel this weekend with the home team, the Denver Broncos! (They were sequestered at the resort before the AFC championship on Sunday --- some of those guys are enormous!). 

I packed one carry-on and then I went into the studio to try and figure out what camera to take. In the end I turned around, closed and locked the studio door and decided that, since I wasn't required to take a camera this might also be a mini-vacation from my almost obsessive need to photograph things. That attitude of non-responsibility carried through to everything...

I had ridden in Ubers summoned by others but had not downloaded the app and tried it myself. If I were heading out on a paying gig I might not have tried it but the downside of a failed Uber experiment was minimal in this case and I figured that if a car didn't materialize Ben could drive me to the airport. No need. Everything worked like a charm and the coupon I had downloaded to my phone paid for my trip to the airport. One more anxiety trigger cured.

Now I feel comfortable using ride sharing services without reservation. 

I usually get to the airport way, way too early. It's a knee-jerk reaction to all those times we've had to return rental cars, check in overweight and oversized equipment cases and be on guard for airline induced schedule changes that might jeopardize our first day of work in another city. This time, flying for fun I headed to the airport and arrived about 45 minutes before my flight. Jeepers. Never done that before. At least not willingly. And I had a revelation: It's nice not to spend time fretting in the waiting area at the gate any longer than one has to. 

I made my own reservations so I wasn't at the mercy of someone else's travel department. I chose to fly Southwest and, of course, it was great. 

The weekend was incredible and the input from so many different sources has had me questioning and examining all of my preconceptions about everything from direct mail (good stuff) to my blogging.  I'm working through it now. 

One of the things that disturbed me and is causing me some marketing soul searching this morning as I sat down to start writing was looking over to the right of my blog at the list of followers. A couple of weeks ago we had about 1525. Since then we've lost about 40. In my years of blogging the number has always gone up and never gone down. And now (fragile ego) I want to know why. I also want to know if what I am writing is relevant to any but a tiny contingent and, if that's the case, should I abandon the way I've traditionally approached the blog (I've written what I wanted to)  and default to the more profitable, and marketing driven engagement, wrapped around selling more courses, linking to more products and writing to a wider (and less educated) audience. Which would entail writing shorter articles with more superficial dives.

The marketing people who spoke this weekend were uniform in two things. One is that they exhorted people to be "genuine" and to "tell their own stories" but on the immediate flip side they pushed us to see what is trending on Facebook and Google and customize our content for that. It's an approach that builds audience but, I think, in my case, is antithetical to my authentic nature and also to what I think makes this blog functional and meaningful. It would be nice to have it both ways but I'm not sure I want to change my "voice" to fit a marketing template. By the same token I'm not enthused about "building a following" on Facebook. Might be good for some people but I can't write with a fake smile plastered across my face. Just can't do it. 

So, let me ask you guys (and it is mostly guys) a few questions about the blog and maybe you can help me out a bit by giving me some feedback and direction. 

1. What is it about the VSL blog that you like? What brings you back?

2. If you "unfollowed" the blog (and succeeded in breaking my heart, one small fiber at a time) can you tell me why you decided to do that? Seems to me that unfollowing is an act of sending a message since it requires and action which doesn't really effect/benefit you one way or the other. Was it a lack of content? A point of view? Too much rumination about swimming and the meaning of life?

3. Are you here mostly to read what I write about gear? Cumulatively you say "No!" but your collective page view numbers say otherwise....

4. What kind of articles (in the spectrum about which I have written in the past) do you really, really enjoy reading?

5. Are you here to garner a sense of community? Or do you just want to read some free content?

6. Why are people mostly reticent to comment on anything? 

I could go on and on but I really am at an impasse where I feel like, just as with camera sales, I am speaking to a shrinking audience and not getting the return engagement I'd really like to see. 

I don't want to turn this blog into a sales tent. I don't want to change my subject matter to go off in pursuit of some mythic audience. But, if it's no longer relevant for most people to read blogs from photographers, or to read blogs specifically from me, I'd really like to know. 

I would ask, again just for the sake of my own ego, that if you enjoy the blog please become a follower. It serves no other purpose but to make me feel good. To make me think that people get something of value here in the mix. 

Over the next few days I'll be talking about some trends in marketing that I'm sensing (and which, surprisingly, are supported by metrics). It could be interesting. I'm also even more interested in video, and video as a new modality of "snapshot" aesthetic. And I still like to talk about cameras. 

I guess, for a guy with writer's block, I'm navigating my keyboard and my brain pretty well for right now. Sorry for sharing too deeply but I don't want to do the blog in a total vacuum and I think you can help. 

I'm back from out of town and I had a great trip. Let's get this week started. 

91 comments:

Alan Kett said...

Kirk:

I read you every day that you write. You, Mike on TOP, and Thom Hogan are the guys I check on a daily basis. I don't do Facebook/Twitter and mainly just read. Not a professional photographer, just someone who putters along taking photos of stuff that interests me. Mainly birds and landscapes.

On your blog, I love your portraits and really admire your "eye". It's something I don't have. I confess that I do read your equipment reviews, although my purchasing cycles for new gear have slowed down since entering retirement. I'm pretty much at the "good enough" stage with my gear right now, but I'm interested in the new stuff coming out enough to read reviews.

I'd miss your musings if you decided to hang up the blogging keyboard.

Hope this helps,
Alan

Bill Mellen said...

I read your blog and Mike Johnston's "The Online Photographer" via a feed reader and see most every post.

As a 66 year old who started taking pictures and learning how to develop them at 11 or so, I enjoy your blog's relaxed and mature approach to the art and craft of photography.

Yes I do read your gear posts and like your re-enforcing the common sense notion that the latest and greatest is simply not necessary to make great pictures. Gear is a big part of many photographer's attraction to and affliction with this wonderful hobby.

Once upon a time, I was ready to go into the business full time, but I sensibly decided to stay in the Navy for 20 years. I then embarked on a career in developing business software and will continue to do so until I retire in a few years.



Barry Leibner said...

Kirk

A little background on me. I am early 60's, did product photography professionally for a while and have always had a day job too. Can't remember a time from the age when I could tie my shoe laces that I didn't have a camera in hand. Love gear, love the photos more and love to sketch and paint.


1. What is it about the VSL blog that you like?
You
What brings you back?
You

2. If you "unfollowed" the blog (and succeeded in breaking my heart, one small fiber at a time) can you tell me why you decided to do that? Seems to me that unfollowing is an act of sending a message since it requires and action which doesn't really effect/benefit you one way or the other. Was it a lack of content? A point of view? Too much rumination about swimming and the meaning of life?
As long as you are writing, I'll be reading

3. Are you here mostly to read what I write about gear? Cumulatively you say "No!" but your collective page view numbers say otherwise....
I love reading about the gear. I hate my lack of self-discipline when I buy cameras based on your purchase decisions, although I now look for the smaller, lighter kits and am using an Olympus EM5 Mk 2 set up. This one I actually decided on and purchased before you did.

4. What kind of articles (in the spectrum about which I have written in the past) do you really, really enjoy reading? Kirk, it's not the articles per say, it's what you have on your mind that I enjoy reading.

5. Are you here to garner a sense of community? Or do you just want to read some free content? If I want community, I'll have a coffee with my buddies. As far as free goes, make it easy for me to pay you my $12. a year like Luminous landscape.



6. Why are people mostly reticent to comment on anything?

George Beinhorn said...

I'm here to listen to you talk about your experiences. Whether it's gear, travel, a years-old photo that you particularly like - doesn't matter. I'm not here for community or as a gearhead. I came here on a link to your review of the Nikon V1 via Steve Huff's site. Subscribed to VSL via RSS feed, and here we are. BTW, I sold my D7000 and a couple lenses and bought a used V1 and FIVE lenses, and it all weighs less than the big 70-300 and I'm very happy. Lordy, what a camera.

My advice: keep writing about what occurs to you. DO NOT "slant" your writing in an attempt to influence your SEO or subscriber list. That's fatal. Seth Godin explained this long ago - in today's Internet economy, uniqueness is the big sell, NOT being just like everybody else, or trying to second-guess what everybody wants to hear about. Gear? They can go to DPReview. Art? They can stumble the Photography category. Unique voice of an active professional photographer? Now we're talking. Some things you can never, ever learn in a gear review that's all charts and shots of brick walls.

Philip Storry said...

Hi Kirk,

You're now one of the last few photography blogs I read. I'm probably an atypical reader, but here's my view.

1. What is it about the VSL blog that you like? What brings you back?
You're a good photographer, who really enjoys his art and has turned that into a profession. You're aware that there's gear lust, but you're honest about it.

And you care about the end result. You have a pragmatic view that's missing from many other photographic voices online. It's the same pragmatism that shone through in your books on lighting - that the results matter, not necessarily the brand or the cost of the equipment.

I mentioned that you're a professional photographer - that's part of the draw. Your willingness to discuss frankly what that means in both an immediate practical manner (early starts for long days) and a more long term manner (what the market wants and what it can get for what it's willing to pay) gives your blog a somewhat unique edge.

So, basically, three P's - Passion, Profession, Pragmatism.

2. If you "unfollowed" the blog ...
Never have.

3. Are you here mostly to read what I write about gear? Cumulatively you say "No!" but your collective page view numbers say otherwise....
Page view numbers no doubt include people coming on from searches.
I'm willing to bet that there are more people searching for "Nikon vs Sony" than there are searching for "packed for a long journey to do a great shoot".
If you're interested in pageviews, then you need to remember what they're measuring. I know that in terms of adverts etc. there's a drive to get more pageviews, so people use that as their catch-all measurement. But in terms of long term engagement, it may not be the correct measurement.

I could be wrong, of course. But the other questions you ask make me think you're using the wrong measuring stick...

I'd be more inclined to view your gear articles as the hooks by which you draw casual passers-by into the blog.

4. What kind of articles (in the spectrum about which I have written in the past) do you really, really enjoy reading?
I like them all, but I think that the retrospectives and the "lessons learned" type ones are my favourites.
I do like that you come back to gear after a while, to say how it's been like to live with. I bet they have lower page views, but I also bet that everyone who read them found them far more useful than the reviews published at release, after a mere few days usage at best...

And of course I like your simple posts with just a portrait. I wish I could take portraits anywhere near as well as you can!

5. Are you here to garner a sense of community? Or do you just want to read some free content?
I'm British. I read the comments, I've been known to contribute, but I'm always going to be a little reluctant. You just seemed so earnestly worried that I felt I really should participate this time.

6. Why are people mostly reticent to comment on anything?
I've already answered that, and can't answer for anyone else.

But I would like to say that I just checked your previous five updates. You didn't ask for thoughts and comments on any of them.
Yes, I know, there's the comments box - which is like an open invite. But for those who are inclined to reticence, an actual invite is always nice to break down that barrier.
People can be odd like that.

John F VanDomelen said...

Kirk

Not surel how to become a follower, maybe remind people how? I read your blog almost every day. I do so because I enjoy reading an articulate individual talking about interesting things that revolve around photography even if tangentially. Sharing aspects of your personal life with a sense of humor thrown in, make you a must read. When I read the blog it is like sitting down with an old friend and i generally have a cup of coffee with it. Please don't get discouraged, you are important to many of us.

Peter Williams said...

1. What is it about the VSL blog that you like? What brings you back?
Variety, the commercial work stories, the open approach to gear selection and use.

2. If you "unfollowed" the blog
I'm not sure what this means, I come and read the blog just about every day and if I miss it I'll catch up on the posts I haven't read.

3. Are you here mostly to read what I write about gear?
No, but of course I'm interested in your views on gear as working tools and importantly as fun and enjoyable to use. The highest/fastest/biggest/sharpest/mostest is no good if its a baulky pig of a thing to use and live with.

4. What kind of articles (in the spectrum about which I have written in the past) do you really, really enjoy reading?
All of them, that's the good thing about visiting here, life stories, gear reviews, working tips and advice, some photos to look at, your portrait work and stories are inspiring.

5. Are you here to garner a sense of community? Or do you just want to read some free content?
I don't get a sense of community, I get you providing friendly advice and information. It's not like a forum where we are participating and discussing things.

6. Why are people mostly reticent to comment on anything?
It's not often that I feel the need to comment, you don't make outrageous statements or provoke a lot of reaction. I suppose the fact that I read the blog each day means I agree with a lot of what you say and have a similar attitude to many things, hence not a lot of drivers to jump in and comment.

As I said a few times before, keep up the good work :-)

Owen Murphy said...

I read your blog because I like your writing. The stuff about cameras is cool, and your opinions about them satisfy the "gear head" side of me but your ideas and philosophy about photography is what I keep coming back for. After reading your posts for a few years I'm even starting to feel like I know you, which is weird but that's the nature of the blogosphere and social media in general.
I was in Austin visiting my daughter (who graduated from St. Edwards) for Thanksgiving and even though the weather was dreary, I took a nice long walk along Town Lake, a sort of Kirk Tuck walkabout, and made photos inspired by your own walks photographing downtown Austin.
While I was doing that, I thought, " Wouldn't it be cool to send Kirk some of what I did". Didn't really know how I was going to do that but it was fun thinking I was sharing with you, even if it was in my own head.
So I guess what keeps me coming back is that I feel connected to a like minded soul.

James Pilcher said...

#1. I like the familiar nature of your prose. I keep coming back because you happen to discuss things that matter to me: Business and photographic gear. I am self-employed and find that I can very often substitute my own line of work in for "photography" and find that your comments inspire me.

#2. I have no idea what "following a blog" means, let alone to unfollow. I just come here to read. VSL is at the top of my favorites list in IE.

#3. I enjoy your gear posts immensely. They add value to the blog for me. Your ruminations on business success are important to me though. Your blog would be much less to me if either of those attributes were eliminated.

#4. What do I really really enjoy reading? Admittedly, the gear posts, especially cameras and lenses, light my fire. The business posts are a very close second and I never skip them.

#5. Garner a sense of community? I don't post much in the comments, so I suppose it's not a sense of community that drives me here. Would I pay a nominal fee to visit VSL? Possibly yes. LULA is trying that at $1/month. I have no idea what has happened to their readership, but I wonder if being behind a paywall has diminished their relevance.

#6. People do not comment because they do not want to look the fool. It's that simple.

Tell me how to follow the VSL blog and I'll do so. I'm really clueless there!!!

Jim

Peter Ziegler said...

Kirk,

I agree with much of what's in the previous comments so I'll only weigh in with stuff that hasn't yet been said.

I read your blog every morning, but I have never 'followed' you because I don't know how. I didn't even know it was a thing. Looking around now it seems to require involvement with some privacy robbing social media giant, but I'm not sure.

I've commented a few times, but I'm reticent to do so more often because I often feel I have nothing to add. As Philip said above, perhaps asking some open-ended questions will solicit more comments.

As for your recent loss of followers, I've noticed that when you begin to speculate on ending the blog as you do from time to time, I find it disheartening. Just sayin'.

Peter Ziegler

Stephen Cysewski said...

I follow you through an RSS Feed. I use FEEDLY as my RSS reader. I am not sure if I show up in your statistics. I read your blog on a regular basis. I like your real and grounded perspective. I do read all your content. Do you have a way to track those people who read your blog through RSS feeds?

John Lucia said...

I'm going to provide an answer out of order because it sort of makes the most sense that way.

6. Why are people mostly reticent to comment on anything?
Personally, it comes down to the feeling that I have nothing substantive to contribute to the conversation, or whatever contribution I might have seems so obvious that surely someone else has thought about it, stated it, and it was just too stupid to divulge. There are, frankly, plenty of posts upon which I feel initially compelled to speak to, but without a question deliberately posed I feel under-qualified to contribute. So, ultimately, it's mostly issues of personal inadequacy, and I wouldn't be surprised if your blog's audience wasn't replete with that trait to a degree as it's more high brow and substantive than the typical gear banter forum.

3. Are you here mostly to read what I write about gear?
4. What kind of articles do you really, really enjoy reading?
Gear articles and reviews are a dime a dozen, and those reportage sites the photography community deems reliable and accurate are clearly defined so branching beyond them is often unnecessary for anyone not trying to subdue latent buyer's remorse. I come here to read your rumination on the "Photographer's Condition", the abstracts that drive creative people to pursue creative work personally. That includes direct analyses of the things that court your muse specifically, and those articles exploring motivations and mindsets behind working jobs. Often those articles tie into a study of the health of the Photography Industry itself, and I find those snippets of thought similarly interesting because of how critical they are, as opposed to feel-good garbage posts catering to the hug box. I want to read on ideas that present a challenge, not get a pat on the back or some sort of confirmation bias.

1. What is it about the VSL blog that you like?
5. Are you here to garner a sense of community? Or do you just want to read some free content?
Community would be a great thing, but I'm timid enough even in casual scenarios. Personal issue, really. Ultimately, I am an awful hoarder of your free content, since I don't find similar perspective or presentation elsewhere that meets my challenge criteria. Every post, even those that come off as gear centric, are akin to a conversation had in a small uptown coffee shop, and so long as that vision continues with the cadence and verbage you use, I'll keep coming back to that coffee shop to hear you monologue.

Question 2 doesn't apply as I still read and re-read your articles on the daily. Rumination about swimming is important as rumination about any activity, we feel better and think clearer exhausted after a workout. The meaning of life is the ultimate question, and it would be a pity to discount any perspective on its potential answer.

Anonymous said...

Why do I read your blog? It's your unique ability to put into words the daily challenges and triumphs of being creative and really good at what you do - and I also appreciate your musings on where things are going with technology etc. (I recently bought a 5K i Mac.... instead of a printer....) I'm not here for the gear stuff - got over that years ago - much of what you have to say about creativity applies to more than just photography - the tools are, after all, just a means to an end. I like the way you can use various tools to achieve spectacular photos.

You also have a fabulous eye - love your portraits - so please, please, stick to your last - be different and be yourself. That's why I always read your stuff - one of about 3 blogs I read daily. The rest are mostly marketing rubbish.

and, no, I don't comment often - but this time.....

Graham H

Dan Higgins said...

1. What is it about the VSL blog that you like? What brings you back?
I come back for your personal stories, agonies, and triumphs. The personal angle is what makes a blog interesting. For instance, I read Penelope Trunk because she's over-the-top entertaining.

2. If you "unfollowed" the blog (and succeeded in breaking my heart, one small fiber at a time) can you tell me why you decided to do that? Seems to me that unfollowing is an act of sending a message since it requires and action which doesn't really effect/benefit you one way or the other. Was it a lack of content? A point of view? Too much rumination about swimming and the meaning of life?
I'm an aging athlete (and swimmer), so your swim talk is fun. I'm also a father and enjoy you writing about your relationships with your family. I do enjoy your writings about your professional experiences, but they are seeming to repeat in theme. I find gear talk tedious (no Thom for me). Meaning of life writing is great!!

3. Are you here mostly to read what I write about gear? Cumulatively you say "No!" but your collective page view numbers say otherwise....
No on gear. A little is ok. I do enjoying reading about you trying something new, or re-discovering an old lens. Or you how you used a piece of gear in an interesting way. It's nice to know what thought processes you use when designing lighting setups.

4. What kind of articles (in the spectrum about which I have written in the past) do you really, really enjoy reading?
Your sarcastic rants are my favorite because I can relate. I still laugh to myself about my modern DSLR being a robot. I shoot a Mamiya 7 as well so the contrast is stark. Nano-acuityTM indeed.

5. Are you here to garner a sense of community? Or do you just want to read some free content?
Kind of a loaded question? Not so much on sense of community. (see below) Guess I'm a free-loader. I'm writing now because you asked a pointed question and I hope I can help you out with my opinions.

6. Why are people mostly reticent to comment on anything?
I don't comment much because I don't anything new to add. I enjoy comments that expand the discussion, but most blog comments tend to echo what's every already said so I don't bother to read them looking for nuggets.

David Sutton said...

Hello Kirk.
What they said.

Phillip Harris said...

1. What is it about the VSL blog that you like? What brings you back?
The honest 'tell it as it is' style.

2. If you "unfollowed" the blog?
I am not contemplating it.

3. Are you here mostly to read what I write about gear?
Yes and No 60% philosophy and 40% gear.

4. What kind of articles (in the spectrum about which I have written in the past) do you really, really enjoy reading?
A look at life's hurdles we have to regularly jump over (or attempt to).

5. Are you here to garner a sense of community? Or do you just want to read some free content?
Neither.

6. Why are people mostly reticent to comment on anything?
I'm not sure. I run two blogs and have often had the same question spring to mind.

amolitor said...

1. I like your mix. Ultimately, you talk about things which I know will interest me, to keep me coming back, and then you talk about other things, and sometimes I find something I didn't know I was interested in. A find that having both sorts of things is really what keeps me engaged in the long term.

2. N/A, but see the answer to #1. The swimming, the gear reviews, the musings on life, these are all part of the gestalt that engages me.

3. No on gear, particularly, but see the answer to #1. I find that you have an interesting take on gear, so I read those pieces as well.

4. As a general rule, I really really like articles on anything that smells a bit like "artistic process", but I love me a wild-eyed rant on pretty much any topic.

5. The sense of community is a little light, but it's present, and I do quite like it. Your commenters are pretty interesting bunch. I wouldn't say it's "free content", I'd say it's that I personally find Kirk Tuck to be an interesting guy with interesting things to say, who takes beautiful pictures sometimes, and sometimes talks about how he does that. And then he rambles on about other stuff (see the answer to #1!)

6. I dunno why people don't comment. I do know the lurker/commenter ratio is very very high. I use a rule of thumb of 300:1, and I have to say that not being one of the 299, I have no idea. Based on my wife, I'd have to say that there's a general sense of distance, a sense that she either doesn't want to commit to that personal interaction, or doesn't feel as if it would be appropriate, or both.

lucepen said...

Hi Kirk,

I have been reading your blog most every day for years – what drew me to it was your review of the first Olympus Pen cameras, and your experience with using the old Pen lenses with the digital bodies. (The Olympus Pen F was my first serious camera, which I bought when I was 15 for the money from my first summer job at a bakery.) I have used Olympus m43 bodies ever since, with both modern and ancient lenses. So that’s why I started to come here, but I'm still around because I like you and your writing. As I have no intention of changing camera system, what I am least interested in is, in fact, specific reviews of new cameras – but I enjoy your musings on general trends and where photography is going. But I also like your commercial photographer’s perspective, even if I have never had the ambition to make money from pictures myself. And I like to hear about life in Austin, Texas – a very different place from Stockholm, Sweden, where I live. So, as long as you keep writing, I will keep reading. Thanks!

Staffan

Kirk Tuck said...

To everyone who has commented so far: THANK YOU. This is the feedback I am looking for. I am interested in building more a sense of community. Not endless "likes" but a feeling that any good contribution to the discussion is very welcome and valuable. If you have ideas of how I can foster than I would also appreciate it.

Kirk Tuck said...

So, I kind of get why people don't follow as much. It has to do with Google and privacy. I'll keep searching for better ways to "feel" the feedback. Thanks for letting me know. How many of you are using RSS feeds to read? I don't have any direct way to measure that. I go by my actual page views so I'll make myself feel cool by taking Andrew's advice to consider 300 to 1. That would make my blog stupendously popular....

Will said...

1. What is it about the VSL blog that you like? What brings you back? VARIETY OF COMMENT, YOUR PHOTOS, YOUR IRRITABILITY. :)

2. If you "unfollowed" the blog (and succeeded in breaking my heart, one small fiber at a time) can you tell me why you decided to do that? Seems to me that unfollowing is an act of sending a message since it requires and action which doesn't really effect/benefit you one way or the other. Was it a lack of content? A point of view? Too much rumination about swimming and the meaning of life?

3. Are you here mostly to read what I write about gear? Cumulatively you say "No!" but your collective page view numbers say otherwise.... OF COURSE.

4. What kind of articles (in the spectrum about which I have written in the past) do you really, really enjoy reading? YOUR WALKABOUT PHOTOS, PORTRAITS, GEAR THOUGHTS. NOT SO MUCH LIGHTING ARTICLES -- SORRY.

5. Are you here to garner a sense of community? Or do you just want to read some free content? JUST READ FREE STUFF.

6. Why are people mostly reticent to comment on anything? I CAN'T COMMENT.

Anders C. Madsen said...

I pop in a couple of times a week, mostly because I like to read about how you handle many of the aspects of being a pro photographer. Although I'm 47 and married with three kids, I'm only at my second year as a full time pro photographer (been a CTO for 15 years until it was about to kill me), and I can learn from you without feeling that I'm going to use your own knowledge to compete with you.

That, and I enjoy your writing - like you said, it's not meant to drive customers into the corral, and that is definitely nice.

Carlo Santin said...

1. I like the unique content and perspective. You write about a wide variety of topics. Portraits, lighting, some gear talk, the insider perspective from a working photographer etc. There is a sense of humour here too that is lacking most other places.

3. Gear talk is fun from time to time but it is not the reason why I come here. The people who comment here are probably not here for the gear talk but we would represent a tiny percentage of overall visitors, so it seems that everyone else visiting here shows up when there is new gear review.

4. I have always enjoyed your insights into lighting, which is a subject I find fascinating and complex. I am very much a beginner when it comes to lighting so I always appreciate any help.

5. I dont really get a strong sense of community here. There is some, but only some. I dont know that I want a strong sense of community but I am open to the idea of one developing here. For example, one of the reason I stopped going to TOP was the strong sense of community that exists over there...I just dont fit in there and never felt like I did. There is very much an inner circle over there and I find it an odd one with a certain level of pretense that I would rather not listen to, so I stopped visiting.

6. This is an interesting one. I think there is a larger societal thing at play here. As a high school teacher, over the past several years I have had an increasingly difficult time getting students to share opinions and ideas. Most are content to just sit there and not offer up anything to the group, even when we are discussing hot topics. Class discussions tend to fall on the shoulders of a few. The rest seem to sit there, either afraid to speak or not caring enough to do so. There is a complacency, I find, with many people today. Whether people are mentally preoccupied, more worried about their phones and who they are connected to, or just dont care...I dont know. As it pertains to your blog, your posts are much longer than most so I think many people simply dont read them all the way through and are content to simply visit for a quick check and vamoose.

I do not visit very many blogs these days as it is hard to find good engaging ones. I would stop visiting here if you focused on gear talk and reviews, but the truth is I am only one person-your numbers would probably go up quite a bit and you could monetize this site. I hope you keep it going in the spirit with which you started it-I would be sad to see it devolve into something else.

Nigel said...

Read pretty well every post;
Follow... what's that ? :-)
Value your willingness to share your experience, and that you seem to value honesty over self-promotion.

And I'm a Brit; reticent is somethng we just are.

D said...

never felt a need to subscribe. like other commenters, i get your blog via an rss feed into feedly. rarely go to your official blog unless something is weird with feedly.

i enjoy that you share you trials and triumphs so freely.

used to work in a similar field (sound recordist for video, film, features, documentary, current affairs, tv) and relate to a lot of your corporate experiences, esp today's comments about getting to the airport early to deal with baggage, rental cars etc. Nothing has changed in 30 years!

Don't give up, I enjoy your writing, and loved the book.
Happy New Year

Gato said...

You, TOP and recently amolitor are about the only photography sites I visit on a regular basis anymore. Three years ago there would have been twice that many, five years ago there were maybe a dozen. Some I dropped because the site just ran out of steam, some because the gear has matured and I'm not so interested in gear posts as I used to be, some because they seem to be saying the same things over and over.

1. What is it about the VSL blog that you like? What brings you back?

The personality and the writing style, combined with the fact that you are out there doing it almost everyday. Mostly because you think about photography (and the business of photography) in ways that go beyond gear and technique.

2. If you "unfollowed" the blog (and succeeded in breaking my heart, one small fiber at a time) can you tell me why you decided to do that? Seems to me that unfollowing is an act of sending a message since it requires and action which doesn't really effect/benefit you one way or the other. Was it a lack of content? A point of view? Too much rumination about swimming and the meaning of life?

I have never followed. Perhaps I should look into it, but it seems like something I would find intrusive. I have tons of "Here, look at this" stuff coming in all the time -- if anything I want to slow it down. In fact, I recently spent part of a morning unsubscibing emails.

3. Are you here mostly to read what I write about gear? Cumulatively you say "No!" but your collective page view numbers say otherwise....

Your gear talk is more interesting than most because you are one of the few writers actually out using it in the professional world. At the same time I sometimes do tire of it, and sometimes only skim the gear pieces. I did buy a 105 for my D800 after your writing reinforced my fond memories, so I guess I do pay some attention.

4. What kind of articles (in the spectrum about which I have written in the past) do you really, really enjoy reading?

I like the "on the job" or "behind the scenes" pieces, but I really most value the blog when you are writing about what makes a good photograph - or a good photographer. And always enjoy seeing the portraits, both personal an professional, and reading the thinking behind them.

5. Are you here to garner a sense of community? Or do you just want to read some free content?

I've never really thought of blogs as a place for community. Are they supposed to be? I probably get more community from yours than from most, but that's not what I'm here for. (I will, however, offer to buy you coffee if I'm ever in Austin again.)

The question sounds like some sort of touchy-feely marketing department thing. Maybe you need more distance from that conference/retreat.

6. Why are people mostly reticent to comment on anything?

Very often I am reading your blog over breakfast - I don't want to stop eating to type. More seriously, I comment when I think I have something worth saying and have time to think it through and type it up. With the exception of TOP the blogs I see with the most comments seem more interested in provoking reaction than in provoking thought.

In the end, I don't have any real answers. I suspect the overall readership of photography sites has peaked, just like camera sales, and some decline may be the natural course of things.

So long as you keep doing what you do I'll keep reading. Which bring up the question, can you change the blog to attract new readers without losing a significant number of us regulars? And, do you want to keep doing what you enjoy or do you want to play for the numbers?

Rene said...

Kirk,

When I got serious about shooting again roughly 20 years ago, I started looking on the web for photography sites and found I didn't like most of them. About 3-4 years ago (?), I found VSL through Mike Johnson and have looked at it just about every day since then. At first I came for your portraits as this was something I'd never done and was interested in it, but what really hooked me was your writing about yourself, your work and personal life (yes, including swimming), the photographic process and how you ran your business, not to mention the adventures of Studio Dog. In short, all of it! The longer I read VSL, the more I felt like I'd found a friend that I could depend on for good advice and wisdom. You do feel like a friend, even though we'll likely never meet, because you share your life in an honest and authentic way that's rare to find. The fact that we share many of the same attitudes toward photography and life sure doesn't hurt either.

Yes, I have and do read the gear reviews, although less so obsessively now, after learning from you about Micro 4/3 gear which I currently use.

So, from my perspective, just keep on keepin' on the way it is now and with whatever strikes your fancy in the future and I'll be reading and occasionally commenting.

Another user said...

I read your blog for both photography and your life experience. I especially liked it when you wrote about swimming and doing pushups. In fact, that has caused me to try doing pushups as well.

Anonymous said...

1) A still working stiff talking to a semi retired working stiff

2) Have never “followed.” Just check in almost every morning as I do with several other photography websites.

3) We don’t use the same gear, but often in talking about gear you talk about how or why you use it and that is of benefit regardless of brand. Actually you were fundamental in my using continuous lighting instead of big strobes for my studio portraiture. While gear is the one thing that all photographers have in common, I don’t think it is the reason I check in because I don’t like the sites that are basically gear sites as opposed to craft sites.

4) Can’t quite put my finger on what I enjoy most, but quite often it is a picture and your comments about the picture.

5) I already have a community. Put me down for the free content.

6) I’m reticent to comment when I don’t really have anything to say that would add something useful to what is being said. I suspect that’s a pretty common reason.

Bill Pierce

Chris DellaCorte said...

Hi Kirk:

I read your blog to better understand the complexities of the photography business and also to learn valuable tips for keeping my hobby enjoyable.

Every time I read about how much preparation and work (and experience) go into every successful shoot I realize why I am a scientist and not a working photographer. It is very tough work! I do like your technical reviews too but mostly because you show us all that lighting, skill and subject matter is what counts most in getting great images.

It also doesn't hurt that I too could join AARP (if I felt that old) and I like to swim.

All the best, keep up the great work and blogging.

CDC

milldave said...

Hi Kirk,
I'm a lurker; has to do with being a Brit, though I do occasionally comment on Molitor's site because he's more provocative than you are.

1).Why am I here? Because I also like the mix, I LOVE the portarits (makes me VERY jealous!), I read the gear reviews because they're honest and to the point.

2).I came to this site several years ago, about 4, and have stayed ever since. I read TOP, VSL, Robin Wong and now Andrew's site, in that order.

3.)No, I appreciate ALL the content.

4.)The 'nuts and bolts' articles float my boat, because I'm a practical (not academic) engineer, who appreciates the 'hands-on'approach and not the mind-devouring techie stuff from East of Suez!

5.)I sense a community with some of the long-term regulars, enjoying the input from those of you who are and have been professional photographers, something I'm not and will never be. The humour shines through, as well as the knowledge and experience, something that other sites I have left do not have.I have enough photography books in my library (including yours) not to need free content to read.

6.) Being a lurker has much to do with being a Brit; I often have nothing to say, because of cultural difference or simply because I could not put it better.
I don't do Social Media, as it irritates me and I find most of it banal.
If I knew what an RSS feed was, I could answer that question.

I might suggest you do a straw poll of the age groups among your followers;it may be that we are all within a certain age range.
Does your blog reach students and Ben's age group?
If not, what's missing? Maybe Ben can fill in the blanks.
Perhaps these are the 'lost' followers.

For me, don't change a thing; but then, I'm one voice in many.
Just thanks for being you and for writing the way you do.
Regards,
David

Merle Hall said...

Kirk,

Early 60s guy who's probably only owned half a dozen cameras in my life. I enjoy learning to take photographs better. It takes me years, it seems, to understand the current camera I own. Maybe that's an age thing and it used to be easier, I don't know. I don't think the percentage of good/bad has improved that much since my slide-taking days.

#1 - I enjoy your almost effortless writing on whatever topic you choose. It doesn't seem to matter whether it's christmas lights and BBQ or swimming. And you successfully always, or nearly always, bring us back to the art of making meaningful photographs.

#2 - As folks have said, "Still here, so can't help you with this one."

#3 - No. See #1

#4 - I think the ones I enjoy most are where you talk about some aspect of the camera or process in a way that enlightens me and then back up that talk with images which clearly support what you're saying. Doesn't matter whether it's portrait lighting (which I will never do, but which I find curious and amazing) or your assessment of the FZ1000. I may not read the full text of a particular lens you're going on about, but that's probably because it's nowhere near my radar for actually owning one.

#5 - Um, free content, I suppose. But mostly because I enjoy the way you write about a topic I'm interested in. I'm not sure that blogs are really very good at building a community. At least the ones I read. One exception might be TOP, but Mike has a different approach and style, so I'd say there's maybe a bit more of a community there. Even there, though, most of his audience only knows Mike like we know our local news anchor, not like we know the community of our office or our church.

#6 - I rarely comment because I don't want to just simply say, "I enjoyed this one, Kirk." I will comment if you trip some meaningful personal experience that I think sharing would be of value to you or others.

I'm not good with the whole following thing. Should probably work on that. I, also, read via your RSS feed. Please don't throw up an ad or other "pop-up" like some RSS feeds do (like imaging-resource or treehugger) where the second article I click on presents me with something I have to click to get rid of. Yes, it does help them track their RSS readers (I can think of no other reason they would annoy their readership with it), but I find it bothersome, in one case to ask me yet again for the umpteenth time whether I want to subscribe to their newsletter. If I'm reading their posts via RSS, why would I want their blooming newsletter? I do wish there was an underlying way for you to detect your RSS readership, though, especially if it would help you.

#7 - Oh, and most of us just wish we could be in Austin soaking up all that nice sun. So maybe we come here to get away from blowing snow. :)

Tom Northenscold said...

I enjoy your commentary on the state of photography as an art and passion. I don't care as much about the "state of the photography business" posts. I like your irreverent demeanor. You are clearly not a paid shill. I do get annoyed with your gear wanderlust, mainly because it causes me to take a jaundiced view when you rave about a camera. I find myself wondering how long this new infatuation will last. I don't enjoy reading the play-by-play detail of the latest corporate shoot. I do enjoy when you wax philosophical about this crazy passion we all have for photography.

Anonymous said...

There are 3 or 4 photo blogs I try to keep up with. VSL is number two after TOP which together make a great pair.

I like your "man on the street" or authentic writing style. I like the bits about the family, the dog, even swimming to some extent, just shows you apparently "have a life" which is great. I sense that you have "a need to write" that this effort also somehow meets, and am grateful for it. I'm happy for free content, but am willing to pay for the privilege as well. The $1.00 per month LL charges seem fair though I don't go there anymore, it just kind of got too something or other for my tastes-but I digress and they don't need me to be successful.

I do hate everything about Video, must just be me.

I love your passion for and take on Cameras and lighting.

Del

Keep up the good work!

JGS said...

1. What is it about the VSL blog that you like? What brings you back?

I like the practical nature of your photography. I like that you enjoy the gear. And that gear can be anything from the most recent release to a forty year old classic. You make an amateur like me enjoy the craft for what it is instead of a gear focused folly.


2. If you "unfollowed" the blog (and succeeded in breaking my heart, one small fiber at a time) can you tell me why you decided to do that? Seems to me that unfollowing is an act of sending a message since it requires and action which doesn't really effect/benefit you one way or the other. Was it a lack of content? A point of view? Too much rumination about swimming and the meaning of life?

You're a good writer. I like reading most of what you write about. Photos, technique, gear, sons, wife, Austin, age, etc. I like reading writers who are good.


3. Are you here mostly to read what I write about gear? Cumulatively you say "No!" but your collective page view numbers say otherwise....

I do put a lot of faith in you when it comes to gear reviews. I have none of the gear you have (I shoot Canon), but I always learn something.

4. What kind of articles (in the spectrum about which I have written in the past) do you really, really enjoy reading?

Photography business. You have great observations on people. Makes me laugh.

5. Are you here to garner a sense of community? Or do you just want to read some free content?

Maybe a bit of both.

6. Why are people mostly reticent to comment on anything?

I just don't feel I have much to add. But I can if it'll make you coninue the blog. I look at it daily. And I would miss it and your perspectives.

Michael said...

I've never 'followed' you and wouldn't know how. Started on Facebook and got out as fast as I could as I felt the quicksand creeping up my legs. Twitter? Birds do it. But I check into your every day, and what I like is the sense of someone doing what they do well and doing it hard and with a lot of enjoyment. You live a life very different from mine, but animated by many of the same values, and that comes through clearly. From a strictly photographic point of view, it is of value to me to see the choices someone else makes and their experiences, and above all to see what their photos look like when they're doing it for themselves. I can't imagine what it would be like for you to write for Facebook, but I'm pretty sure you're right: it would look like somebody with a smile plastered on their face. So please please keep writing what you feel like writing. The 'follow' figures may go up and down, but I doubt you'll lose many from your most devoted readership.

Mike Rosiak said...

Kirk,

So many comments that I could just say "what he said" to, that I feel reluctant to just pile more of the same on the heap. But, here goes:

Forget all that marketing and SEO improvement crap! It'll drive you crazy. Unless, of course, you use this blog to "drive business" to you. But I don't get the sense that is your motivation. Why do you write this blog in the first place? You once said that writing comes easy to you, that you don't really edit and revise, so I assume that what I read is a stream-of-conscious essay from a very active and inquiring mind. Perhaps there is this writing itch that needs to come out, so each post is a sort of "Remembrances of Things Not Yet Past" in the life of a skilled commercial photographer.

Oh, yeah. You had some questions. I guess you would like some answers.

1. What is it about the VSL blog that you like? What brings you back?

Because you're a thinker. You pose questions. You challenge assumptions. You question yourself, and the business you're in. And you're good at it.

2. If you "unfollowed" the blog (and succeeded in breaking my heart, one small fiber at a time) can you tell me why you decided to do that? Seems to me that unfollowing is an act of sending a message since it requires and action which doesn't really effect/benefit you one way or the other. Was it a lack of content? A point of view? Too much rumination about swimming and the meaning of life?

I guess I follow? I signed up for email from you a couple years ago. Fyi, I avoid "social networks" like the plague. I am quite accomplished at farting around and wasting time all by myself, thank you, and don't need any help from Facebook or Twitter or whatever.

Odd coincidence: just this morning I reviewed my photography bookmarks ... blogs, review sites, experts, and so on ... dozens upon dozens. But the only ones I come to daily are VSL, TOP, Andrew Molitor, and Carl Weese.

3. Are you here mostly to read what I write about gear? Cumulatively you say "No!" but your collective page view numbers say otherwise....
No, but that does not mean I don't like the gear essays. There was only one recently that was quite long, and I didn't care about the equipment. That's unusual. I love reading about gear. I like that you have the ability to write it off as a business expense, and follow your inclinations. Vicarious purchasing is highly economical.

4. What kind of articles (in the spectrum about which I have written in the past) do you really, really enjoy reading?
Insightful stuff, into society, business, art, family, swimming (I can't), and ... sure, photography.

5. Are you here to garner a sense of community? Or do you just want to read some free content?
VSL isn't a forum, so I think that community wouldn't apply. And, now that I've been "hooked" for a few years, set up something like a subscription. I don't always remember to click through to Amazon from VSL.

6. Why are people mostly reticent to comment on anything?
Sometimes, after composing a comment, I review it and think, "That's stupid!" and leave without comment. Part of my inhibition might be that because I am a hobbyist, I place a low value on what I may say. It feels like I'm commenting just to comment. (For what it's worth, both your blog and Mike Johnston's were the first I ever commented on. Because both of you seem so friendly.)

Sherwood said...

Hello Kirk... I've been an avid reader of yours for years and check back several times a day, as you are one of the few bloggers that write multiple posts, always with an interesting insight and on a multiplicity of topics. I always appear to be interested in whatever you write, so can't make any suggestions there. I enjoy long posts where you really get to explore whatever it is you happen to be blogging about that day. I also enjoyed your book. So my only suggestion is, please keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Nothing I could say really matters. It's your blog. I can say I keep coming back finding some posts I like better than others but seeing your blog as sort organic. It flows together over time turning it into something special. I think maybe it's that your ability as a storyteller that pulls it together. Anyway, thanks!

PS Not sure how one follows a blog. I do check in most days to see if anything new is up.

Jim Hughes said...

Lots of the earlier commenters have already done an excellent job of expressing my responses to your questions, so I'll not plow tht ground again. Like several of them, I use Feedly to follow your blog, and I enjoy the variety of your posts. I found you when you were writing about the Nikon V1, as I bought into the system early (and still enjoy it). I also shoot a Nikon D600 (never had the sensor issues), so enjoy your reentry into the Nikon world. While I enjoy the gear-related stuff, I probably like the stories of your assignments and how you handle them more, even though I'm not a professional photographer. I've also enjoyed watching you enter the video world -- it's interesting to see how you do it and what you've learned. I've commented a few times, but I normally feel I don't have anything substantive to add. Just keep doing more of the same. And get the second novel done!

Ed Pledger said...

Like others, not an official follower, just a regular reader. I enjoy your writing style, and being in and from Texas, appreciate some of the local references. Tend to agree on gear assessments, and one always appreciates opinions that buttress one's own. Can relate to "writing" itself, having spun out a novel manuscript a few years back. Don't ruminate too much about the number of followers....I didn't see this mentioned above, but if I missed it, well it's just a reflection of my inattention perhaps. But if you knew the age distribution of your followers, it could be some of us older ones are just sliding off the tail of the bell curve.

Wolfgang Lonien said...

RSS here Kirk, which Firefox (or in my case, the re-branded Iceweasel) calls "Live Bookmarks". Which are cool, because your headlines show if it's about video (I sometimes pass on them), or about everything else.

Found you through "The Eye of the Zuiko" years ago, and stayed forever. #1 photo blog for me, #2 is TOP, then some others which I don't read daily like yours.

What do I like here? Your honesty, and that works comes first. You're not trying to sell anything, not even a concept like some of those mirrorless folks do.

Joseph Kashi said...

I check the VSL blog routinely for your pragmatic and worthwhile articles, often several times a day, but don't "follow" as I find that unnecessary. Rather than likes, following, and that sort of metric, why not consider page view counts as a better, more comprehensive measure? You're doing fine where it counts.

Gary said...

Just keep doing what you're doing, for which I'm grateful.

Andrew W. said...

I use RSS and read your posts as they are published. I am not a professional photographer, I do not take portraits (except family snaps), swimming for me is a splash in the sea/lake on holiday - but I like your style, I like how you write and it is interesting to have an insight into the work and passions of someone else. And you show some very good photographs where the explanations behind how they are taken give me information to squirrel away and might be useful in the future.

Thanks for the enjoyable blog and I hope you are encouraged to keep going.

indianrunner said...

Hi Kirk,

I followed you to pump up your ego ;-). I rarely visit your blog directly, usually I use a RSS reader.
As for the the feedback:
1. Your writing , not much commercial BS (nagging about the Lisbon Portfolio was bearable :-) to me), diversity of topics.
2. N/A
3. Very rarely. I read your gear reviews (including lighting etc.) only when I'm bored at work and have read everything else. This also inludes blogs about troubles of a working PRO - because I'm not a pro and I'm not willing to be one. Generally I skip the "technical" blogs.
4. Style, style, style. And style :). Lighting style, shooting style, building rapport with a beautiful sitter. Generally anything about your artistic choices. To me it is much more interesting than gear. But as you noticed, gear is a page view magnet.... :)
5. I'm here just for a "free content", sorry. I'm a street shooter, so I might have not much to say to a community built arround a studio photographer.
6. I can't say much about "the people" - I don't know that many, a 100 at most :). Personally I comment only if I think my voice will add something to the discussion - I'm not a "cool article, dude" type of guy. And also it has to coincide with me having time and feeling like doing that. Writing anything is much more difficult and time consuming than reading. To summ up - I guess I'm lazy :)

And to help your ego, you are doing a fantastic job. Don't worry about the numbers. Just have fun and screw the rest. Life is too short to worry about what some spoiled strangers want.

Mim said...

One of those (apparently) unusual females here. I follow you on Bloglovin - not sure if that includes me in your followers or not.

Gear brought me here via a google search (thank you for getting me onto micro four thirds, that was about 4 cameras ago).

I stay because I like what you write, and how - and I read every post. Shoots, gear, swimming, floods, whatever. You write intelligently and with little care about marketing etc - that appeals to me.

I don't comment much, mostly because someone else has often already said it, or I feel like I don't have much to add.

Keep doing what you're doing, it works!


Noons said...

Sorry, I never realized there was a "following" in this blog!
As incredible as it may read, I have a small bookmark folder for photoblogs I like and I simply click on the ones there almost every day. The folder is replicated in all my devices courtesy of the bookmark replication of some of the browsers.
But now I realize this one has a "following" thing.
Done! NOt a problem at all, if it makes your reckoning easier.

Chris Rusbridge said...

I read VSL every day, nearly all of nearly every post. I'm subscribed via RSS, and have a couple of dozen other blogs that I read in various photographic topics. It used to be many more blogs related to my area of work/study/research, but since retirement those have dwindled and the photography sites have grown.

I like VSL because it DOESN'T feel like a sales pitch or link bait, and because you do write in detail about the mental processes behind what you do so well. I also enjoy the pictures, naturally!

I'm surprised in a way because portrait is not my thing at all, but at the moment I can't see myself unfollowing until I just can't read! You're a really good writer, and people want to read really good stuff!

Anonymous said...

I started reading your blog several years ago because you were writing about gear that I was interested in.

I continued to read your blog because I like your writing style and a reasonable percentage of your content is interesting to me.

I still like the gear posts, even though I have no interest in the gear that you are currently using. I enjoy the 'day in the life of a professional' kind of posts. I identify with your family posts (I have 2 daughters that have recently completed college).

This is your blog and I don't think that you should contort it to satisfy me or anyone else. That said, don't be surprised to see people come and go. Just as your interests shift over time, so do ours. The fact that our interests have overlapped for as long as they have is something of a gift.

Mike Rosiak said...

Kirk,

Many comments above question following. Just what constitutes "following?"

I know that I subscribed for posts, a couple of years ago. Am I a follower? There are multiple options listed on the right side. Are all of them countable?

I do not participate in any of the so-called social media. I have found the presumably automatic email notifications non-invasive, so maybe if your many readers were aware of the difference, that particular statistic could go up?

Anonymous said...

I have commented a few times, but don't really enjoy it - just as I almost never share my photography publicly. I'll do it if I have something to contribute but otherwise it's just not my thing.

I usually skip your video / gear articles (though I sometimes read stuff about *how* you use Nikon gear since that's what I use). However, I very much enjoy your articles/posts where you're musing about life, art and photography in general - that's what keeps me coming back.

I don't know how to 'follow' a blog or why I would want to do that? I have it bookmarked and it is one of three blogs I check just about daily to see if there is anything new (the others are Thom Hogan and The Online Photographer, if it matters).

Cheers,
Ken

Brian Keairns said...

Your gear articles were the initial draw. I was moving from Canon to MFT because MFT fits the style of video I do. I like your perspective because you're experienced but open to new formats. You're confident enough to use what works whether it's a D810 or a G7.

I get the most value from your articles about business, the future of photography, freelancing, art, etc. Your philosophical articles are the most memorable and valuable to me but they're also the most demanding. Gear articles are usually quick and easy to read. I often bookmark the deeper articles to read later. They sometimes cause me to rewire my thinking in a way that gear articles rarely do so I have to be in a different mindset.

That's another thing I like about the blog. There's generally a good rhythm of gear articles and more challenging, rewarding business or philosophical articles.

Anonymous said...

I really think your blog has ammazing amount of variety and that is why I come back for daily dose of it. You combine tech with practical and philosophical - very potent and desirable mix and I greatly appreciate it. Keep going!!!

Ted Phillips said...

In my opinion the variety of your blog is the strong point. The blog is intelligent, informative and always welcome with my coffee in the morning.

Guido said...

Hi Kirk,
I am 42 and from Germany. Like George Beinhorn, I came to your site when you did the V1-Review. Since then I stuck with you (and also with mirrorless, but now it's Olympus). I read your posts mainly via RSS, but come to the site from time to time to see the comments on a special article. I also read Thom Hogan, Ming Thein and Robin Wong.

1. I enjoy reading your posts because I like your down to earth views and your style of writing with a lot of humor. Especially when you write as the CEO of VSL and your constant struggle with GAS and your CFO or your walks with studio dog. I like the very long posts as much as shorter ones with a good picture. I think there are a lot analogies to photography or other parts of (my own) life, when you write about swimming or pondering about your "ordinary life" or social trends. When it is gear related, I like your musings about the current cameras and lenses (also the older ones) you use or rediscover.

3. Of course I like to read something about gear. I especially like it when you take the mumbo jumbo and dogmatism out of the most recent gear.

4. From the more recent articles, I like these two very much
https://visualsciencelab.blogspot.de/2013/10/the-graying-of-traditional-photography.html
http://visualsciencelab.blogspot.de/2014/12/the-importance-of-launching-your-dream.html

5. Haven't thought about it yet.

6.
Mmh, this is my first comment ever. I'm very hesitant to comment, I don't know why. But when you kindly asked me for feedback, I'll happily try to do my best ;-). I would also like to make you feel good, therefore where would you like me to become a follower? On Facebook or Twitter (check)? Or when I subscribe to your RSS-Feed (check)?

One suggestion: I don't know whether you like to write about it, but I would like to know a little bit about your post-processing. What are your struggles (if any)? What is your workflow? Has it changed over time? And why?

Just my thoughts.

Keep up the good work and have a nice week.

Cheers

Guido

Anonymous said...

1. Honest, interesting and intelligent commentary by someone who knows what he’s talking about
2. Never followed your blog or any other. Regularly visit about 5 times a week. Love when there is a cornucopia of new stuff to read.
3. Love your gear writing and also love the general photo philosophical explorations. You led me to 4/3 years ago and I am still there so I enjoy whenever you provide new thoughts about the format. I skim over the Nikon stuff for fear of catching that disease again (it held me hostage from 1983-1998).
4. General commentary on photography and see above.
5. Reading
6. Dislike of hostile know-it-alls. I don’t read comments and am only down in this section to leave this feedback.

Murray Davidson said...

1. What is it about the VSL blog that you like? What brings you back?
Connection, an interest in seeing how you get on, what you’re up to, what you think and report. There is a feeling of (virtual) rapport, like if we met for a coffee (or a good beer), we’d already be friends… I suppose, also, loyalty. Tinged with admiration.

2. If you "unfollowed" the blog
N/A

3. Are you here mostly to read what I write about gear?
Nope. But some of the gear stuff is interesting. Especially when you agree with me, as with the RX10 

4. What kind of articles (in the spectrum about which I have written in the past) do you really, really enjoy reading?
Pretty much all of it. You’re an entertaining writer who also writes about stuff that entertains me. Subject matter is secondary.

5. Are you here to garner a sense of community? Or do you just want to read some free content?
There is a limited sense of community through the comments, some degree of kindred thinking. The notion that there are kits of people also regularly enjoying the same reading and content is, I suppose, community of a sort. Loyalty aspect again?

6. Why are people mostly reticent to comment on anything?
We’re all secretly British?  (Not racist, I am (Scottish)) For me, my answer is often likely to be “me too” to a large extend, and that deters. Or I haven’t got much to add (passive approbation).

Murray

Robert Roaldi said...

1. I'm not a pro and don't do portraiture so it's useful to me to hear about the details of those things. If I ever do them in the future, I'll know what questions to start asking, otherwise, I'd flail.


2. I don't follow or unfollow, just click on the bookmark every few days. I skip entries about swimming and some of the ruminations about life, but drool at the pics of stained espresso cups that make me want one and a croissant.

3. The gear stuff I read for the same reason I occasionally car articles, to acquire a base of knowledge that may be useful in the future when I go shopping for gear. I pretty much know what I need or want, but useful to hear what works for others. But also, I get a kick out your repeated assertions that it's not about gear, usually about 2 days before you buy new stuff. Slays me every time, fun as hell.

Taking pictures and being interested in photographic devices are two separate activities.

4. The portrait lighting stuff is fascinating to me because I've never done it. It's educational to find out all you need to know to make things look easy. It's like that in all things.

5. Community, not especially. Photography has always been a solitary activity for me.

6. I figure it's because they have nothing substantial to add. Actually, I don't often read comments, websurfing already takes up too much time.

Aaron Hines said...

I keep coming back to read the great mix of writings on photography and small business, art/photo/video/life philosophy, honest gear opinions, and other varied topics. The overwhelming majority of other photography blogs and websites don't cover all of those at once (or some of those topics at all). You don't seem to mind writing something that goes against common beliefs, opinions, and myths (since you're living it, not just rehashing the same stuff as everyone else) and you steer clear of BS. You don't have an allegiance to any one camera format or brand, and your projects are as varied as most of us find our own to be. I draw inspiration from your work, which is classic, refined, and often done for actual clients. I've looked all over for similar blogs, websites, etc., but throughout the world wide web an honest, unique voice is surprisingly hard to find...

Fred said...

Hi Kirk,

I'm here for the swimming and the dog stuff :-).

I like your writing style and read all your posts. I generally check your blog a couple times a day. I find that the stuff that I was not initially interested in has become much more interesting as time has gone on and that includes the business ones. I was a religion major in college so I enjoy the philosophical posts.

I do enjoy the equipment articles although I am pretty happy with my Sony R-1. However some video capability would be nice since your posts about video have gotten me interested in that. I was talking to a friend on Sunday about my increased interest in video as I was bringing him back from the airport (who knew that there had to be at least three flight attendants or the plane could not get off the ground) so I am glad that you are doing more of that and will I hope write more about it.

I do feel a sense of community, as if we are having a conversation over a cup of coffee, which means that I should post more comments. Sometimes when I don't post it is because I don't have time (I am a slow writer), sometimes it is because I am not sure how I will come across in print without my tone of voice being heard. I have a sense of humor that is referred to in polite company as weird and I am sometimes afraid of being taken the wrong way. And sometimes, as in the case of your posts of pictures with essentially no text, It is because I like them but am too lazy to figure out what it is about them that I like. Hmm, I need to work on this.

The bottom line on all this is that it is your blog and I keep coming back because I like your writing and your take on life and as long as you will be posting I will be reading.

Thanks

Fred

benatmer said...

Hi Kirk,

I really hope you carry on writing. I read your blog most days, although I haven't commented before since I think there's far too much empty chatter on the internet... Yours' is one of my favourite sites, just because you're a proper, working photographer rather than someone who simply writes gear reviews. I like reading about gear as much as the next person (currently using an A7rii and E-M1), but there are a million ways of getting gear reviews. What you do, at your best, which I really value, is write about the art, about your personal style, which is the most important thing of all- it's so difficult to develop a personal style, a personal aesthetic, in an age where everyone takes the same things in the same ways (lovely sunset, anyone?). Whatever you do, though, don't think your blog entries have fallen on deaf ears, and if you carry on, please don't drop the longer, more thoughtful pieces; they're surely what makes your writing unique in a crowded marketplace. That, and not constantly blowing your own trumpet.

David Farquhar said...

Hi Kirk

Really enjoy your blog, I read it every time you post. I mostly read on a feed reader on my mobile, and yours would be in my top favourites. I enjoy the variety of writing, and you cover a lot of topics that interest me. Your resistance to just being about gear is great, and the non photography topics are thoroughly enjoyable. I especially like the swimming posts, I think you are one of the reasons I started swimming in December, my first proper training for over 15 years. Funny enough I started doing pushups and squats to help support my swimming in January - wonder where I got that idea from!

I don't comment often because I've had a few posts go astray on the mobile, and often because I'm in the UK your posts arrive late at night / early morning, so by the time I have some space in the evening I've forgotten that I might have wanted to comment on something.

Am I here about the gear? No, but I enjoy reading those posts. I guess you have your normal followers, and then those who flock to your pages when they search for a piece of gear and find your reviews, hence the bonus views on those posts. Did I mention I have an Olympus E-M5... that's because of some of your posts on Micro 4/3 back in the day.

I think that answers most of the points, many thanks for all your posts and the time I've spent enjoying them

David

Michael Matthews said...

I've always avoided the Google "follow" button because I hate generating one more bit of data with which that organization's artificial intelligence engine can categorize, slice, dice, parse, and otherwise tag my existence. But, what the hell. I pushed it today if that's the count you're referring to.

What keeps all of us coming back is your authenticity. It's a recognizable and likeable person we check in with daily, one whose thinking we enjoy connecting with.

Reconfigure all that to maximize search engine response and you'll begin at first preaching to the choir, having defined all the choir's salient characteristics. After that, a growing echo chamber of comment and response may appear to signal progress in growth but ultimately it will implode. Result: one overworked, burnt-out blogger.

Keep it real. The world is overrun with politicians.

Mark W. said...

kirk,
1a. Real writing.
1b. "Art" and the struggle to define it and achieve it.
1c. Learning about lighting.
1d. Did I mention the quality of the writing...

2. N/A

3. I like reading about gear - but your site was the first one to introduce me to "you marry the lenses and have affairs with the bodies." I've settled on the lenses. Now the bodies can come and go... Going back to 1c above - I appreciate when you discuss lighting equipment and how its used.

4. One of my neighbors has taught me a valuable lesson. He's a great IT guy because he started out life as an english major. He knows how to read and right. And that has led to a good career in IT. I truly enjoy reading about professional photography from a professional photographer who can't help but share his experience in a well written blog.

5. I've stayed away from "community" online. I'm a lurker. I enjoy free content and have purchased your books on lighting and your novel. I have purchased your tutorials on Craftsy and also enjoyed the free one...

6. I am a lurker because everything I write is stored everywhere somewhere forever...

Like others, you and TOP are my two most enjoyable reads throughout the week.

Sincerely,
Mark

Lenya Ryzhik said...

1. What is it about the VSL blog that you like? What brings you back?

Your writing and photographs, obviously. TOP, Thom Hogan and your blog are the places i check
every day.


3. Are you here mostly to read what I write about gear? Cumulatively you say "No!" but your collective page view numbers say otherwise....

No. I only (almost only) read the gear articles when they are about Nikon gear for stills. Even the quality of your writing is not sufficient to make me read about video capabilities of D810, Panasonic XXX or Sony RXXX. Old Nikon lenses are a different story.

4. What kind of articles (in the spectrum about which I have written in the past) do you really, really enjoy reading?

About the process of taking and thinking about photographs and light.


6. Why are people mostly reticent to comment on anything?

Maybe because they do not have much of value to add and recognize your blog as a place where you keep quiet unless you have something to say? I bet I am not the only reader who comments on your blog about once every 100 or more posts i read.

Karen Auntipode said...

I suspect most folks don't comment for the same reason they didn't up speak up in school. They fear making mistakes and seeming ignorant. I comment because I'm used to both. :)

Ron Nabity said...

Kirk,

1. What is it about the VSL blog that you like? What brings you back?
I first bumped into you around 2007 in the strobist discussions, and noticed your consistent real-world comments. Rather than blindly adopting the conventional wisdoms, you spoke from experience and practical outcomes.

Soon after, I found your blog (I think this was even before you had named it VSL) and I've been reading ever since. I think I may have "followed" you, but not sure. I keep coming back to read your real-world, practical comments about photography, the state of the business, the state of the art, clients, technical stuff and watching Ben grow up.

2. If you "unfollowed" the blog (and succeeded in breaking my heart, one small fiber at a time) can you tell me why you decided to do that? Seems to me that unfollowing is an act of sending a message since it requires and action which doesn't really effect/benefit you one way or the other. Was it a lack of content? A point of view? Too much rumination about swimming and the meaning of life?
N/A

3. Are you here mostly to read what I write about gear? Cumulatively you say "No!" but your collective page view numbers say otherwise...
No, that's not why I come here. But I do read your gear-related posts because I relate to the reasons you mention the features.

4. What kind of articles (in the spectrum about which I have written in the past) do you really, really enjoy reading?
(see #1 above, too) I enjoy catching up on your latest jobs, camera purchases (and trade-ins), and mostly, your philosophical entries. My all-time favorite is still, "Combating the Oppressive Sense of Isolation..." I like the walk-about entries, too. (I am least interested when you focus your energy on some dim-whit commenter. Say nothing and they quickly fizzle away.)

5. Are you here to garner a sense of community? Or do you just want to read some free content?
Both.

6. Why are people mostly reticent to comment on anything?
I suspect one reason you don't see lots of comments is related to the devices we use. When I'm on a computer (like right now) it is much easier to write out a thoughtful(?) comment than it would be on a phone. More people are using phones as their primary device, so maybe that could be part of it?

I also think low participation comes with the territory. Just like any customer feedback, you won't hear much from the hundreds of people who are satisfied, but you'll certainly hear from the one or two who disagree or just like to argue loudly. Frankly, the tone of disagreement in general has gotten much uglier over the years.

I guess it comes down to faith - if you are authentic and write what matters to you, then believe the right people will be there, following along. Some of us might even say Hi, or more. If you pursue Hits or Likes, then you'll always be chasing an elusive and unsatisfying goal (you know this).

Hope this helps. I've appreciated the many years of reading your blog. I look forward to many more. At the end of last year, I began retiring my commercial photography business and now I am shooting anything/everything for the pure joy of it.

Ron

Dave Jenkins said...

I don't "follow" because I'm mostly not a follower, but I have had your site bookmarked since it began and check in regularly, sometimes several times a day, and, as you know, comment fairly frequently. I read a good number of blogs, and yours is my absolute favorite.

Others have said all that needs to be said about why you should keep on doing exactly what you have been doing, and said it very well. I can't improve on their comments.

I don't much read the posts about swimming, and I have no interest in video -- I tried it for about two years in the early '90s and hated doing it, so went back to commercial photography. My dedication is to the still image, and I'm old enough that I don't have to add something I dislike doing to my product mix to make a living. (There are some advantages in getting older.) But it's no problem if you write about something that doesn't interest me. It's your blog. Write what you like and I will read and enjoy most of it.

What I most especially like is that you write eloquently and perceptively about the life of a working photographer -- a life that I have also lived. Your experiences are in some ways different from mine, yet also similar in many ways, which makes them both interesting and enjoyable to read.

I also especially like your posts about how to go about the business of being a professional photographer. There is an excellent book buried in your posts, one that would be different from any other book ever written about the business and work of a photographer. I wish you would dig it out. I would do it myself if I had time. (But, as you know, I've just signed that contract to do a book about the backroads of Georgia that will take up most of my year. Thanks for the encouragement.)

Eric Seale said...

Kirk,

As with others, I mostly read you via an RSS feed reader, so doubt I show up in your "follower" stats. That being said, here are my responses:

1. What is it about the VSL blog that you like? What brings you back?
Lots of things -- the honest / genuine commentary and contemplations, the humor, the experience-based insight, the lack of pretense.

2. If you "unfollowed" the blog (and succeeded in breaking my heart, one small fiber at a time) can you tell me why you decided to do that?
Haven't done that, don't plan on doing it (unless you start filling your posts with sales pitches for your new "Nano-Acuity Optimizer Pro(TM)" plug-in for Lightroom).

3. Are you here mostly to read what I write about gear? Cumulatively you say "No!" but your collective page view numbers say otherwise....
Nope. Once upon a time I tried calculating how much money you spent perennially switching camera systems, then got dizzy and a bit nauseous as a result -- a hazard of being fiscally conservative (i.e., tight-fisted). Your observations on the state of the photo-gear industry are interesting, and illuminating, but unless you happen to brush on something I was thinking of buying (rare), not what I'm here for. I find it enlightening, though, when you comment on a piece of gear that I own(ed) and use(d) -- a nice if one-sided way of "comparing notes" virtually.

FWIW, my photo-blog shows a similar pattern -- disproportionally large amounts of traffic on the gear review posts, likely driven by search engines.

4. What kind of articles (in the spectrum about which I have written in the past) do you really, really enjoy reading?
Your insights into portrait photography as a collaborative endeavor with the subject, your perspectives on the aspects of photography that are separate from the technology.

5. Are you here to garner a sense of community? Or do you just want to read some free content?
A little of both, but mostly because I appreciate and value your insights, educated as they are by actual experience. Blogs aren't nearly as good at community as are forums -- but with forums you have to deal with the trolls. Meanwhile, there's plenty of "free content" on the internet, and much of it is worth every penny I pay for it. VSL, though, is actually thought-provoking -- and I definitely do appreciate that.

6. Why are people mostly reticent to comment on anything?
I have no earthly idea, I've got two blogs and they both have the same issue. As for myself, when I read VSL, I only tend to comment when I've got something to add -- and most of the time you wrap things up pretty tidily.

jiannazzone said...

1. What is it about the VSL blog that you like? What brings you back?

You are a good writer. You seem to know what you write about. I have a sense that some other bloggers have not even seen or touched some of the gear they write about. I appreciate the fact that you write about what you use and paid for yourself rather than what you are paid to use.

2. If you "unfollowed" the blog (and succeeded in breaking my heart, one small fiber at a time) can you tell me why you decided to do that? Seems to me that unfollowing is an act of sending a message since it requires and action which doesn't really effect/benefit you one way or the other. Was it a lack of content? A point of view? Too much rumination about swimming and the meaning of life?

I check the blog most days. I don't "follow" anything. I am more of a manual transmission type.

3. Are you here mostly to read what I write about gear? Cumulatively you say "No!" but your collective page view numbers say otherwise....

I enjoy your gear posts. Most photographers are gear heads to some degree. I am an amateur and enjoy your real world view of gear.

4. What kind of articles (in the spectrum about which I have written in the past) do you really, really enjoy reading?

I probably most enjoy your columns discussing the job you had to do, how you decided to accomplish it, and then assessing what worked and what did not.

5. Are you here to garner a sense of community? Or do you just want to read some free content?

Some of both, more of the latter.

6. Why are people mostly reticent to comment on anything?

Photographers are a shy group. We are more comfortable behind the camera instead of in front of it.

MO said...

The observing Way of writing, changing State of mind, honest n genuine aprouch n a bigger span of topics

MO said...

Makes it the only blog i read

Anonymous said...

I have your blog bookmarked and have been reading for several years. I tend not to comment on many blogs and don't usually 'follow' any; just my habitual way of doing things. However you have made me realise that giving feedback and making a presence felt is important, so I will start following you from now on.

I think you blog is a little bit unique. Your open-ness about the commercial side of photography, mixed with the occasional (independent) gear discussion is really refreshing. Hearing a bit about your personal life just adds a human aspect to it too. The web is awash with camera review sites, so I wouldn't really want you to change anything!

Best regards,
Don
U.K.

Mohammad Shafik said...

I was reading this article and enjoying every word written, and just before the part where you asked for feedback (I swear I didn't see it then) I decided I have to write to you and thank you on all your past articles and future ones in advance since I am usually way too lazy to respond to each article. Part of it is the comment moderation process, and having to remember to revisit the post and check if my comment has been published, then checking again to see if you responded to it. Anyway. I can't blame you. I also used to moderate the comments on my blog. Just thought to let you know it seems like a daunting task to respond frequently to your posts.

Then I read the remaining of your post and thought to chime in. I LOVE reading your blog. It is my absolute favorite one. I love the gear reviews. I love the technique discussions. Sometimes I enjoy the marketing discussions. I absolutely love the behind the scenes posts, like this post about your life behind the camera and as a human being, like the preparations before and after a shoot, the anxiety, the push ups (am copying you now BTW), etc... I love your writing style and posts frequency. I love seeing new sides to Kirk Tuck and his thought process. I would love to see how you store and maintain your gear (mainly cameras and lenses), hint hint.

In summary, please keep being Kirk, and do what you are doing. I enjoy it a lot, and would miss it dearly if it stopped. I have a personal target to hunt you down and meet you the next time I travel to the US, just to thank you in person.

Thanks once more, and sorry for being too lazy to comment frequently on your posts.

Diogenes Montesa Baena said...

1. What is it about the VSL blog that you like? What brings you back?
I can identify with your mental structure/workflow and since you have access to the very same gear I'd be interested in and or currently using, I keep coming back. And it's not just the gear talk. It's also the human aspect of it all, the stream-of-consciousness meanderings. It's like 1+1=10

2. If you "unfollowed" the blog (and succeeded in breaking my heart, one small fiber at a time) can you tell me why you decided to do that? Seems to me that unfollowing is an act of sending a message since it requires and action which doesn't really effect/benefit you one way or the other. Was it a lack of content? A point of view? Too much rumination about swimming and the meaning of life?
The only reason I would unfollow you is if you started spewing nihilistic stuff.

3. Are you here mostly to read what I write about gear? Cumulatively you say "No!" but your collective page view numbers say otherwise….
I'm here to savour everything. If I don't comment on non-gear stuff, it's because I feel that your blog is about you, and not for me to comment on my stuff, unless it is relevant to the conversation.
4. What kind of articles (in the spectrum about which I have written in the past) do you really, really enjoy reading?
Finding new uses for outdated, i.e., over 5 yrs old, gear.

5. Are you here to garner a sense of community? Or do you just want to read some free content?
The former. The latter is just a bonus.

6. Why are people mostly reticent to comment on anything?
I think it's the fear to sound ignorant or naive. You certainly don't make people feel that way.

I could go on and on but I really am at an impasse where I feel like, just as with camera sales, I am speaking to a shrinking audience and not getting the return engagement I'd really like to see.

I don't want to turn this blog into a sales tent. I don't want to change my subject matter to go off in pursuit of some mythic audience. But, if it's no longer relevant for most people to read blogs from photographers, or to read blogs specifically from me, I'd really like to know.

I would ask, again just for the sake of my own ego, that if you enjoy the blog please become a follower. It serves no other purpose but to make me feel good. To make me think that people get something of value here in the mix.

Over the next few days I'll be talking about some trends in marketing that I'm sensing (and which, surprisingly, are supported by metrics). It could be interesting. I'm also even more interested in video, and video as a new modality of "snapshot" aesthetic. And I still like to talk about cameras.

I guess, for a guy with writer's block, I'm navigating my keyboard and my brain pretty well for right now. Sorry for sharing too deeply but I don't want to do the blog in a total vacuum and I think you can help.

I'm back from out of town and I had a great trip. Let's get this week started.

I certainly hope you keep your blog up. Yours is my favourite since it covers a range of issues.
Jason Lanier is another favourite, mostly because I'm a Sony user and Jason covers it.
the Camera Store is another favourite. but that's really it.
and oh, DigitalRev for comic relief, in small doses.

RayC said...

1) Like the variety. As a former pro, now hobbyist who supplies some products into the photo field it gives me a perspective that I both enjoy personally and professionally.

2. Not sure if I’m a “follower” or not, I think I may have finally signed up based on a previous post on this. VSL and TOP are the only sites where I will read every post – even if they don’t appear to be of interest because the point of view is often as important as the topic

3. I love the gear posts, but mostly because they seem so conflicted and over time somewhat inconsistent, like real life.

4. Swimming is my least favorite, just like Mike’s posts on pool, but I read them anyway because they give insight into your personality. My favorite posts are those preparing or reporting on a shoot and all of the elements involved.

5. I think “community” on the web is a bit of a misnomer. I’m here because of the personality of the blog and relevance I can take from it. I don’t respond often, because I am not sure that I can add to the discussion, and like this often are a few days late to the thread as travel, work and life interfere with pleasurable reading.

6. I don’t see it here on VSL but commenting often comes with attacks on a simple opinion. The web is unfortunately often uncivil. Time is of course the other problem. Point taken though is that if I take it probably means I should give as well

Munim said...

1. That it's not overly poetic, because you're a working photographer, I like the story aspect of your blog posts.
2. I didn't unfollow because I never followed. I just randomly check in once or twice a month and scroll through your latest posts and if something catches my eye, I'll read it.
3. You know, I do usually skim through your gear posts, albeit not with great satisfaction. I just like to read your style of writing, story-like, as I mentioned above. I don't care much for gear though, I'm not much of a photographer. I just use an old Sony DSC-R1 for family photos with a bounce flash. It's all I need.
4. The kind of articles I really enjoy reading are the ones about your assignments, what you did / problem you had / and how you solved it.
5. I don't care about the community, I've never even been signed in. I do care about your content, which is why I'm responding.
6. I haven't commented before because I mostly read things on the internet like I would read a newspaper, if I did. Who knows if the author really cares what I think, and it's too much effort, and I don't have much to say. I just read, expand my knowledge maybe, enjoy maybe, and carry on with my life.

I will follow your blog to make you happy though, and because you asked authentically :)

Philip Storry said...

Hi Kirk,

Well, you certainly got some engagement!

I just wanted to respond to your follow-up question - I'm also using an RSS reader (Newsblur, for what it's worth).


Phil

Mitch said...

Feedly reader, so not sure if I show up as a "reader"

Just here to follow a fellow full time photographer and share in all the trials, machinations and victories involved.

ivokele said...

It seems that my comments of two days ago have been lost. Maybe it was flagged as spam because it contained a link (to the text below, but links are sometimes taken as spam by filter software irrespective on what they point to).

Anyway... What I wanted to say is that probably nobody unfollowed you, the drop is a consequence of a new blogger policy:

"In 2011, we announced the retirement of Google Friend Connect for all non-Blogger sites. We made an exception for Blogger to give readers an easy way to follow blogs using a variety of accounts. Yet over time, we’ve seen that most people sign into Friend Connect with a Google Account. So, in an effort to streamline, in the next few weeks we’ll be making some changes that will eventually require readers to have a Google Account to sign into Friend Connect and follow blogs.
As part of this plan, starting the week of January 11, we’ll remove the ability for people with Twitter, Yahoo, Orkut or other OpenId providers to sign in to Google Friend Connect and follow blogs. At the same time, we’ll remove non-Google Account profiles so you may see a decrease in your blog follower count."

The text can be found on blogger "buzz". I hope your ego is better ;)

Paul Kelly said...

I am very grateful for the time and effort you put into your blog. I value the variety of topics you cover, and the candour and maturity you bring to them.

I read every post you make, which is even greater loyalty than I show The Online Photographer where I skip the sports posts (I don't consider your swimming as sport - you participate rather than spectate). There are probably only one or two others feeds in the 220 or so in my RSS reader where I read every post.

Your comments on equipment come from a different angle from most reviews, so I find you often have interesting comments that I would not see elsewhere. I find your comments on the business life interesting because they often apply equally well to any personal service delivery business (including mine). The images you show are also an important element - they both entertain me (in an artistic way) and educate me. The variety of your topics is also an attraction.

There would be no point in you writing about stuff that did not interest you - you would be wasting your time, and you would not have as much of value to impart.

The quality of your writing is also a plus point - articulate, well structured, easy to comprehend and without the typographical errors that are guaranteed on some sites.

I have no interest in being part of a community. I have no idea if I am a follower or not.

It is interesting to compare how I read VSL and TOP. For TOP I almost always I click through from the feed reader to the TOP site, partly because the RSS feed omits the images and has poor layout, but also because the comments on the site are a significant part of the whole experience.

For VSL I very rarely go to your site, mostly because I get the full well-formatted content in the RSS feed. I also don't expect the comments to be a significant part of the experience, so I don't go looking for them, except for rare posts such as this where comments are obviously important. There may also be some hangover effect from the time when it was virtually impossible to view your site on an iPad (my reading is split fairly evenly between iPhone, iPad and laptop).

I realise that comparison is a bit 'chicken and egg', but perhaps if you limited the amount of each post that appeared in the RSS feed, then I would be coaxed into visiting your site regularly.

Since I use a feed reader, I don't care how frequently or erratically you post, I know I will always see it.

Joe V said...

Kirk: I'm an amateur photographer and writer, and follow your blog regularly because: a) You're a working professional with no axe to grind or secrets to hold close to yourself; B) You have a heart for teaching; C) You are a good writer. It's that combination of being a talented photographer, writer and teacher that makes it worth reading your blog.

Technically, I don't "follow" your blog; it's in my list of favorites and I check in almost every day.

That's another thing I like: you write prolifically, you update your blog almost every day. That means a lot to mean, as I try to keep my two blogs updated maybe once or twice a week at most. You've put in the labor of love here, and it shows.

Keep up the good work.

~Joe Van Cleave

coolframe said...

Hi Kirk,
I usually don't comment here but I'm a long time reader altough I'm not subcribed by email, I don't need it, I just write "vi..." in address url and the browser fills the rest of the URL ;)

I came here to comment about your post "This is a public service article for bloggers who have been in... " because I really liked it and I wanted to say thanks for sharing, but since you're asking questions in this post I'll write and answer them here.
It is funny to read some "stranger" on the net, know his wife's and boy's name and see you getting older (same here hehe), many times I don't share your opinions but most of the time I learn from your experiences and of course I agree with many things you say. That is the good thing about blog: blogs are personal ! keep that way :) keep writing your opinions.

Ok, I'll answer your questions:

1. What is it about the VSL blog that you like? What brings you back?

I like to read your opinions and posts about how to aproach subjects when doing portraits, how to use light, and comments about photographer profession.

2. If you "unfollowed" the blog (and succeeded in breaking my heart, one small fiber at a time) can you tell me why you decided to do that? Seems to me that unfollowing is an act of sending a message since it requires and action which doesn't really effect/benefit you one way or the other. Was it a lack of content? A point of view? Too much rumination about swimming and the meaning of life?

I just type the URL, don't like email subscription. Meaning of life is OK with me I like reading about it.

3. Are you here mostly to read what I write about gear? Cumulatively you say "No!" but your collective page view numbers say otherwise....

I love you camera reviews, I prefer reading general opinions about a camera/lens/equipment specially if it comes from a practical use point and from a experienced photographer like you. Todays cameras are really capable, so super-technical reviews showing how much DR a camera has, is not important as it was five years ago. That is why I prefer to read your opinions.

4. What kind of articles (in the spectrum about which I have written in the past) do you really, really enjoy reading?

Portraits, lighting, camera/lens, colors/tone, personal experience, meaning of life, predictions, etc... basically what you do now.
There is only one thing I don't like: Zach Theatre's posts, I don't like the pictures (I hate mixed lightning).

5. Are you here to garner a sense of community? Or do you just want to read some free content?

I'm here to have fun above all. Read my answer to question 4 ;)

6. Why are people mostly reticent to comment on anything?

I'm lazy, and english isn't my first language.

Thank you Kirk, keep writing !
Luis.

Anonymous said...

Kirk—

I don't know whether or not you're still looking back at this, but it has been a busy week, so I'm just now having time to respond to your questionnaire.

1. What is it about the VSL blog that you like? What brings you back?

I find the variety interesting and your writing style particularly vital. I like the portraits and seeing how you light them. Not that I take many portraits, or do elaborate lighting, or will ever be (or want to be) a professional photographer, and not just because at 72 I'm too old to start over, but I think maybe I live a vicarious life as a working pro by reading all your posts, and this requires the posts about your walks around Austin not "working" or your missing Ben or (as you are about to suggest) "swimming and the meaning of life" as much as it does your posts about working for a particular client and packing specific gear accordingly.

2. If you "unfollowed" the blog (and succeeded in breaking my heart, one small fiber at a time) can you tell me why you decided to do that? Seems to me that unfollowing is an act of sending a message since it requires and action which doesn't really effect/benefit you one way or the other. Was it a lack of content? A point of view? Too much rumination about swimming and the meaning of life?

I certainly haven't "unfollowed." I admit it hadn't occurred to me to "follow"—not quite sure what that means. Several times a week I hit command-L and "vi" and Safari brings me to you.

3. Are you here mostly to read what I write about gear? Cumulatively you say "No!" but your collective page view numbers say otherwise....

As I said in answer to #1, I like the range and variety of topics. But I do admit to being particularly interested in what you have to say about Olympus, since I use an OM-D E-M5 and lust after a Mark II.

4. What kind of articles (in the spectrum about which I have written in the past) do you really, really enjoy reading?

It should be clear from #1 and #3 that it's precisely the "spectrum" that keeps me coming back (along with the style, the voice). But what do I enjoy the most? Hearing about—and seeing pictures of—Studio Dog. (I mean that as humor, but it's also true. I wish I knew more about emoticons; I could put one in at this point.)

5. Are you here to garner a sense of community? Or do you just want to read some free content?

Free content. (But free GOOD content. If what you wrote weren't so interesting, informative, entertaining, and energetically written, I wouldn't come back, free or not.)

6. Why are people mostly reticent to comment on anything?

I have commented several times, but I don't want to waste your time or your other readers' time with routine babble.

Walter Foreman
namerof@uky.edu

Jerry said...

1. What is it about the VSL blog that you like? What brings you back?
I think I can read anything written well and truthfully. That we share a certain age, an exercise ethic (mine's Crossfit), a love of dogs, adore our mates, and use cameras in our work (I'm far from a pro, but my photos are essential to my business) are enough reasons to read what you write.

2. If you "unfollowed" the blog (and succeeded in breaking my heart, one small fiber at a time) can you tell me why you decided to do that? Seems to me that unfollowing is an act of sending a message since it requires and action which doesn't really effect/benefit you one way or the other. Was it a lack of content? A point of view? Too much rumination about swimming and the meaning of life?
If I unfollowed, I would not be writing this.

3. Are you here mostly to read what I write about gear? Cumulatively you say "No!" but your collective page view numbers say otherwise..
I do like the gear reviews and real world use of such gear. I own a GH4, and K-01 because of your using them. I'm going to get an FZ1000 or the Sony equivalent very soon based on your comments. Likely when the new EM-5III comes out it will be added also (and yes, I have specific needs that can be filled by all these cameras). All that being said, if you want to talk about Austin or Studio Dog or the weather, I'll still be reading.

4. What kind of articles (in the spectrum about which I have written in the past) do you really, really enjoy reading?
Refer to #3. And I still love ZT-Colonus-06081.jpg (That photo)

5. Are you here to garner a sense of community? Or do you just want to read some free content?
You really can't expect a sense of community from a blog. Your discourse feels personal to each of your readers I think. We can all think of you as a long distance friend. But we can't really get any sense of any of the other readers. Just doesn't work that way. The internet is full of free content, most of it maddenly trite. Your blog is good.

6. Why are people mostly reticent to comment on anything?
You write informed, well written words about things that interest me. I doubt my words have much interest to your readers.

Re Welch said...

A couple of caveats: I'm not a professional photographer. I do take photos. I do print some. Mostly I'm the family documentarian who also does some casual (non-studio) portraits, landscapes, street, architecture, and abstracts to please me. I usually read you though Feedwrangler and the Reeder app, but I often go directly to the website. Your blog and a few other photography blogs are ones I read ever day.

By the way, I'm the guy who sent you the collage and offered to let you deck me.

1. WHAT BRINGS YOU BACK? Your point of view. Reading about things I didn't know about (lighting and studio set ups, the concerns of a working professional and what might be applied to what I do).

2. IF YOU "UNFOLLOWED" THE BLOG (AND SUCCEEDED IN BREAKING MY HEART, ONE SMALL FIBER AT A TIME) CAN YOU TELL ME WHY YOU DECIDED TO DO THAT? I've never unfollowed the blog. When you asked people to link with you on google+, I signed up.

3. ARE YOU HERE MOSTLY TO READ WHAT I WRITE ABOUT GEAR? No, again it's the range of things you cover that I don't know about. I do enjoy your perspective on gear though.

4. WHAT KIND OF ARTICLES (IN THE SPECTRUM ABOUT WHICH I HAVE WRITTEN IN THE PAST) DO YOU REALLY, REALLY ENJOY READING? I enjoy reading all of it and really enjoy the write ups on how you do portraits and seeing the images that result.

5. ARE YOU HERE TO GARNER A SENSE OF COMMUNITY? OR DO YOU JUST WANT TO READ SOME FREE CONTENT? I'm not sure what you mean by a sense of community. I'm here to dip my toes into your world as a photographer and working professional. I also visit Austin a few times a year and enjoy seeing your photographs and descriptions of places I've seen and been to around town.

6. WHY ARE PEOPLE MOSTLY RETICENT TO COMMENT ON ANYTHING? I rarely comment on most blogs or blog posts. Mostly, I'd have nothing intelligent to add.

Paul Bradforth said...

Been meaning to reply to your request for comments for days Kirk, and have just seen how many there are — I've probably left it too late to be noticed, but I wanted to reply anyway.
I've been a professional photographer all my working life (I'm 68 now and retired) doing product/still life photography. I've read everything you've ever written on your blog, and will keep doing so. I subscribe via Feedly. The thing that keeps me coming back is you, your personality, mainly. I appreciate what it is to be a working pro, and I love your take on it. I do like the gear chat, but there's more to it than that; I love the way you are prepared to use gear that many pros wouldn't even look at, I like the way you talk about that, the lack of 'preciousness' you have, the way you smash preconceptions of what people think a 'pro' should be. I think my favourite recent post was the one about your movie mates discussing lens quality, loved that. Oh, and your last post, about how old cameras are pretty damn good.
I'd hate to see the blog end, and I really hope you'll just keep chatting. You and Mike give me all the photographic news I need :-)

Kirk in PDX said...

A quick add; perhaps scarcity of comments comes from something Mike Johnston talked about not long ago on TOP regarding guest articles. Many of your posts are complete, and leave little room for comment other than agreeing. I don't have more to go on here, other than after I read a post of yours, I say to myself "yeah" or possibly, "hmm." But that doesn't make an interesting or insightful comment.
Oh, and sometimes when I try to post a comment, the login process from Blogger wipes it out and I don't have the time to type it all back in.

Kirk in PDX said...

Oh hey, I found it.
"...leave "conceptual space," if you will, for others to step in to. There have been times when I've published beautifully presented guest posts that draw very few comments. It's because they're self-contained—"sealed," one might say. They're interesting to read, but they don't invite conversation."
http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2015/11/open-mike-theory-of-diaries.html

And to the other questions...
1. I enjoy your writing and your photos. You really love cameras, photography, photographs, your clients, public art, your son, your wife, your life and it shows. I read your novel too, BTW.
2. I visit the blog daily. I haven't 'subscribed' since Blogger doesn't have any benefit for me.
3. Love the gear articles. You provide a unique and genuine perspective; often a reality check over many of the other breathless review sites. And they are often fun, you share your enthusiasm.
4. I really enjoy the 'process' articles. I'm not a pro, never will be, but enjoy seeing what goes into a session. The in-home portrait of the surgery clinic founder was one of my favorites recently.
5. I enjoy your persepective, hearing your thoughts. I don't get a strong sense of community, but I do get one of comraderie or friendship, especially after reading for several years.
6. Answered above.

Nigel Hodges said...

Sorry for the late response, but here goes anyway. I'm an early 60s guy from the UK, recently (mostly) retired and been an amateur photographer since the mid 1960s when I started out with the family box camera!
I enjoy reading the blog regularly for several reasons, but have never followed. Your writing communicates in an easy to read style which at the same time is articulate, thought provoking and intelligent. You mix your thoughts about photography, the gear and your life in a balanced way which makes me want to return to read more! I also like the way that you have embraced cameras with smaller sensors (ie weigh less - great for my back) and don't subscribe to the macho photo culture that you can't enjoy taking photos or get good results unless you have several kilos strung on your back or around your neck. Your review of the V1 eventually led me to get a V2 - it's fun to use and the quick focussing is ideal for my needs! Do keep on writing, thanks!